Northern Illinois at UB
7 p.m. at Alumni Arena
Records: NIU 14-9, 6-4. UB 11-12, 5-5.
The Set-Up: UB is in a typically crazy battle for positioning in the top half of the Mid-American Conference and plays host to a Northern Illinois team it has beaten 11 straight meetings.
The MAC: Akron leads at 9-1. After that, it’s a free-for-all for spots 2-8. NIU, Ohio and Ball State are 6-5. UB, Kent State, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan all are 5-5. Tied at 4-6 are Toledo and Bowling Green. Every game is key. Tie-breakers are sure to be used in the critical race for top-four seeding.
The Match-Up: UB has scored 90, 101 and 96 in its last three games. Northern Illinois has held its last eight foes under 80 points and five of its last 10 under 70 in regulation. The Huskies have only one player scoring in double figures. They rank No. 2 in points allowed (70) and No. 1 in rebounding. They don’t play fast, and they don’t shoot many threes (they’re 12th in attempts at 15.4 a game). They’re roughly the opposite of UB’s last three foes. UB will want to try to get into transition without making too many turnovers. NIU is tied for third in the MAC in forcing turnovers (15.0 a game). UB had terrible problems with turnovers in non-conference play (16 a game). But the Bulls have improved. They’re making only 12.3 a game in MAC play.
Key Huskies: Marin Maric is a 6-foot-11, 250-pound junior from Croatia who leads NIU with 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. He turns 23 in a few weeks. The offense runs through him. He was third-team all-MAC last year. Senior wing Aaric Armstead (9.7 ppg) was an all-MAC defensive player last year. Two power forwards can hit the boards, 6-8 Jaylen Key and 6-7 Levi Bradley. The point guards are young. Sophomore Laytwan Porter (8 ppg) has 45 assists and 47 turnovers. Freshman Justin Thomas (4.5 ppg) has 25 assists and 19 turnovers.